22 January 2018

A chapter in a new book on
preaching launched today

Patrick Comerford

I am missing the launch of a new book, Perspectives on Preaching: A Witness of the Irish Church, in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, this evening [22 January 2018].

I am one of the 12 contributors to this new book, published by Church of Ireland Publishing (CIP) in conjunction with the Church of Ireland Theological Institute (CITI). It is being launched this evening by Bishop Ken Good of Derry and Raphoe, in the Music Room of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.

The new book, featuring contributions from a wide range of notable preachers and theologians, has been edited by Canon Dr Maurice Elliott, Director of CITI, and the Revd Dr Patrick McGlinchey, Lecturer in Missiology and Pastoral Studies at CITI.

My chapter is titled ‘Preaching and Celebrating, Word and Sacrament: Inseparable Signs of the Church’ (pp 77-90).

Dr Elliott says the book has been produced with ‘the underlying conviction that biblically-grounded, Spirit-filled and culturally-relevant preaching is a sine qua non for the health of any local church.’ He continues: ‘The place of preaching needs urgently to be re-established as a consummately noble one within the life of every Christian congregation.’

Before this evening’s book launch, Bishop Ken Good said: ‘I warmly welcome this publication. A recurrent theme in it is the need for the preacher not only to stretch people’s minds but also to move their hearts. I have to confess that my heart was excited as I read these preachers’ convictions about God’s transformative power being released through the spoken word.’

He continued: ‘Here we are reminded that the preacher, during his or her preparation, must be the first one willing to be touched by the Christ–centred message they are making ready to deliver. Then, as they speak out the message with authenticity and vitality, the hearts and minds of their congregation can be rekindled by the Holy Spirit in a way that enables influence for Christ to radiate out into the community. There is much in this book to encourage preachers and to raise their confidence in what God can accomplish in the Church and in the world through this vital ministry.’

In 12 chapters, this new publication engages with the themes of preaching Scripture, denominational charisms and preaching to the culture.

The editors have been my colleagues on the academic staff at CITI. Dr Elliott writes ‘On the Book of Common Prayer and the task of preaching,’ and Dr McGlinchey writes about ‘Preaching to the De-Churches and Unchurched in Contemporary Ireland,’ and also pens the ‘Conclusions’ to this book.

In addition to me and the editors, the contributors are:

Archbishop Richard Clarke of Armagh, who discusses ‘’The business of preaching and the world of literature.’

The Revd Dr Shane Crombie, curate in the parish of Tullamore, Co Offaly, in the Diocese of Meath, who reviews ‘The Roman Catholic Experience.’

The Revd Dr Brian Fletcher, a former President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, who writes about ‘The task of preaching: a Methodist perspective.’

The Revd Barry Forde, Church of Ireland chaplain at the Queen’s University, Belfast, who writes from his own experience about ‘Preaching in a university context.’

Bishop Ferran Glenfield of Kilmore, Elpin and Ardagh, who asks: ‘What does Scripture say about preaching?’

Dr Katie Heffelfinger, lecturer in Biblical Studies in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, who examines ‘Emotion and Encounter in the witness of Israel’s Prophetic Poets.’

Bishop Harold Miller of Down and Dromore, who looks at ‘The Preacher: the Person and the Passion.’

The Very Revd Dr Trevor Morrow, Minister Emeritus of Lucan Presbyterian Church and a former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, who discusses ‘Preaching in the Reformed tradition.’

The Revd Dr Robin Stockitt, Rector of Donemana and an adjunct lecturer at CITI, discusses ‘Narrative Preaching.’

In the first part of the book, Bishop Glenfield, Dr Heffelfinger and Dr Stockitt look at ‘Preaching Scripture.’ Dr Morrow, Dr Fletcher, and Dr Crombie join me in contributing to the second part that looks at ‘Denominational Charisms.’ In the third part, the other contributors examine ‘Preaching to the Culture.’

In all, eight of the 12 contributors are from the Church of Ireland. If there are weaknesses in this book then, perhaps, then they include the fact that apart from Archbishop Clarke and me, the other six Church of Ireland contributors approach the topic from an evangelical, and even a ‘conservative evangelical’ perspective.

Indeed, Dr McGlinchey, in his conclusions, seems uncomfortable with my ‘style of churchmanship’ and my paper, saying my ‘perspective does marks a seeming dissonance within the volume.’

Perhaps there might have been less dissonance and more balance if I was not the only person from position within Anglicanism who was invited to contribute to this volume. Indeed, I seem to be the only writer who discusses Patristic sources for the place of preaching within the Liturgy, there is only one Roman Catholic writer, and there is no Orthodox voice among the contributors.

The 242 pp book sells at €11/£10. It is available at this evening’s launch and is also available through this link: https://store.ireland.anglican.org/store/product/140/perspectives-on-preaching-a-witness-of .

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